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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Condo for Cyclists?

CANADA - The Toronto-East York community council approved today a controversial new 42-storey condo building with 315 spaces for bicycles... and only 9 parking spots designed for car-share rentals.

In other words its a condo specifically made for cyclists.

City staff were originally skeptical about the idea, but I predict 30-something cyclists will be battling each other to get first dibs on the condos being put on the auction block.

The condo will be built on the site of the old Royal Canadian Military Institute on University Ave near Dundas Street. The façade of the old building will be preserved. The RCMI will be maintaining several of the lower floors for themselves.

The plan is also quite reasonable. Most people who live in downtown Toronto don't drive anyway.

"If you look at the evidence of what sells downtown, the majority of units under 750 square feet in the downtown core sell without parking," says Stephen Deveaux, vice-president of the developer Tribute Communities. Plus its cheaper. Parking spots add approx. $20,000 to the cost of a condo in downtown Toronto. Normally when a building of this size is built there would be approx. 140 parking spaces for residents, according to city standards.

Deveaux says the building is an opportunity to design & market an "environmentally progressive building". With so many jobs, lots of cyclists and transit nearby, the units will sell quickly.

A city staff report originally turned the plan down, citing the lack of parking, but they have since been overruled by the community council. The building still has to be approved by the larger Toronto city council.

The problem is nothing else can be built on the location anyway. Because the facade of the building is to be preserved there's no room to build a parking entrance. The only solution is a building designed explicitly for cyclists or people who prefer transit.

City Councillor Adam Vaughan, ward for the region where the condo will be built, called the car-free building "an interesting experiment and statement about the future of downtown living."

"In the past it was natural to allocate parking spots, but in 21st century Toronto, where we're battling climate change, we don't need that any more," says Franz Hartmann, co-executive director of the Toronto Environmental Alliance, also saying such buildings are uncommon and should be promoted.

The 9 parking spots will be devoted to car-share arrangements, whereby residents can rent a car as needed by the hour.

The RCMI building was a private club constructed in 1907 and is a heritage property. Behind the façade will be a 6 1/2-storey structure and above that would rise a 35 1/2-storey condo tower with about 315 units, mostly one-bedroom condos.

In other words its ideal for young professionals (with no kids) who either walk, cycle or take the subway to work.

The $65 million project is a partnership between Tribute Communities and the 1,500-member RCMI club. Once rubber-stamped construction will begin in 2010 and be done by 2013.

The building will continue to provide space for the RCMI club, its library and its extensive archival collection of military artifacts (including the seat of Baron von Richthofen [aka the Red Baron]'s Fokker Triplane). The RCMI club will be using the income from condo sales & fees to keep the archive and the club going.

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